Confession: I’m a petrolhead but I really loved the Volvo C40 Recharge

Published Aug 18, 2023


I hate to say it but I really liked the fully electric Volvo C40 Recharge that we had on test recently.

Sure, there were a couple of inconveniences during the week but that wasn’t the car’s fault.

You know those fossil fuel dinosaurs social media refers to? well I’m one of those, slow on the uptake on fully electric cars and raised with petrol in my veins.

But somehow the C40 struck a chord with me.

Perhaps it was the striking design made better by the black paint job, the comfortable and well specced interior, outstanding handling or the blistering pace I never seemed to tire of.

Either way I had a fantastic driving experience.

It’s Volvo’s first purpose-designed electric car, which begs the question though, why there’s a plastic cap covering the area where the start/stop button would be? That said it does share many bits and pieces with the XC40, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect it to be totally bespoke.

The Volvo C40 Recharge is fitted with an electric motor on each axle powered by a 78kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack delivering 300kW and 660Nm of torque instantly transferred to all four wheels.

Volvo claims a range of up to 444 kilometres (according to the WLTP cycle) but after a fast charge that had me at 100 percent it showed 380 kilometres while colleague Lance Witten in Cape Town showed 330 kilometres after unplugging it at 100 percent.

So there seems to be some disparity but either way it will shunt to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds and top out at an electronically limited 180km/h which will obviously have an enormous influence on its range.

For an SUV it looks almost coupe-like with a particularly low and sleek roofline, a striking front end and spectacular rear light signature with sequential indicators, but despite the sleek lines it still has 489 litres of boot space.

Good looking 20-inch alloys round off a handsome package.

On more than one occasion while I was “topping up” bystanders struck up a conversation drawn first by the plug wire and then its looks.

Interestingly I was asked three times whether it would make it to Polokwane and back and what it cost.

Well, it should make it but you’d need to recharge it to get back and it costs R1 285 000, which according to one man is enough to buy a small car and build a house.

From the moment you slide in behind the steering wheel the cabin is a place where you can easily while away the hours.

Volvo calls it a Vegan interior so no animals were harmed in the making of the seats and soft touch surfaces.

If you didn’t know it you would be none the wiser and comfort must rate as one of the best I’ve experienced in a long time.

The vertical nine-inch touchscreen is as intuitive as you’d want and mostly voice activated thanks to the Google Automotive System. I asked it to take me to an address for a launch we were attending and because traffic information is live I managed to avoid most of the congestion and make it in good time.

The roomy look and feel is amplified by the panoramic glass sunroof, which apart from the heated seats helped to warm up the interior with a miserable Gauteng winter sun.

Driving the C40 underscores how well the car has been designed and built.

Acceleration as with all EVs is blistering but that was only part of it.

Without playing hooligan it moves forward effortlessly and silently and just so incredibly comfortably.

Thanks to its battery position and resulting low centre of gravity it sits like a monkey to its mom around corners belying its 2,185kg and it’s then that you get to enjoy the immediate torque as you exit.

It takes a while to get used to it especially if you’re using One Pedal Drive to maximise regenerative braking and the nose dives forward as you lift your right foot but it’s a lot of fun when you do and seems at odds without any gear changes.

Obviously when you’re doing that you need to find a spot to charge which is where the week’s inconveniences cropped up.

Use it like your phone, the converted say, charge whenever you get the opportunity.

That’s easier said than done unless you have Volvo’s 11kWh wall box that comes free for owners to juice up at home.

It’s also easier when your life is structured with home, work home, school drives in the mix. But once there’s the odd curve ball like a child that needs to be unexpectedly collected on the other side of Joburg from Pretoria and you have to stop at Engen on the R21 Airport road for a 30 minute fast charge top up on a cold winter’s night, it’s not so lekker.

Also, we can’t be aware of every suburb's blackout schedule.

My partner and I decided to have dinner at Menlyn Maine which has a fast charger at R5.88/kWh to fill up because I had an appointment in Sandton on Sunday morning.

“Load shedding,” said security.

So we decided to stay and have dessert and coffee and when the power came on plugged in and in 45 minutes it would be fully charged.

But, someone must have fiddled with the stop charge button out of malice or mistake so I had only 45 percent when we left.

Not ideal but charging it at Mercedes Benz the next day gave me a few extra percent to get home and back to Volvo the next day.

I realise we need a paradigm shift in how we view and interact with electric cars but like I said, I thoroughly enjoyed the car but not so much the hassles that for now, go with it.

IOL Motoring